November 10, 2012 • Podcasts
Aboriginal Women’s Cultural Safety and Sexual Health
Continued from page 1
CR: And that just led me to doing research with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, specifically looking at Aboriginal women’s experiences of HIV and risk.
RS: And, I guess I just want to ask, why do you do this research, as well? What drives you to do this?
CR: Well, probably lots of different things. A good friend and mentor of mine, Madeleine Dion Stout, who is, or lives in the Tsawwassen First Nations – she’s a Cree woman – once said that we, Aboriginal women, who are scholars and researchers, she called us organic academics. And that is because we explore experiences that grow out of our own lives. And so, as an Aboriginal woman, going through menopause at the time, it was really relevant for me, and I’d seen my mother go through it, and I wondered about the cultural features of that experience. And so, what drives me now is the disparities in the health of Aboriginal women – the lack of opportunities that women have, not only to promote their own health, but to address health issues as they arise for themselves and their families. I’ve become more and more entrenched in that movement, I guess, you want to call it, since, since doing that initial research.
RS: Yeah, and what are some of the sexual health issues and disparities faced by Aboriginal women that you focus on in your research lately?
CR: Well, most of my work has been focusing on HIV, which most people are aware is becoming quite a problem in many Aboriginal communities and with some particularly disadvantaged Aboriginal people. In particular, Aboriginal women who are using IV drugs. And so, one of the primary vectors of infection for Aboriginal women that are infected with HIV is intravenous drugs. And so, those women generally come from fairly traumatized backgrounds, and so, it puts them at risk for lots of other sexually transmitted infections. But also, sexual violence plays a role in their risk of becoming infected with HIV, as well as other sexually transmitted infections. The kind of sexual violence I’m talking about sometimes begins in childhood and a lot of women are ending up in adulthood having faced multiple sexual traumas over the course of their lives, and very limited opportunities to actually address those problems.
RS: It’s already evident, it’s very hard to talk about disparities of health for Aboriginal women without talking about the structural determinants. So what are some of the structural determinants that we see in Canada that impact Aboriginal women’s health? I’m thinking maybe government policies, or the medical system, racism, poverty, those types of things?